While studying countless body styles, Eric Gonsalves settled on the '54 Chevy Bel Air with its curvaceous factory form to create the perfect base from which his custom would rise. His formula was simple: He wanted a car that was low, clean, and timeless, yet tough enough to retain its classic lines. His search led him to central New Jersey, where he found a nice, clean, original sedan that would be a perfect start for the project. Once the deal was made it was off to the races to get going on the build.

To attain the look and feel he desired it would take a metal master with an equal vision to begin the most significant portion of the transformation. Eric called on Ray Tourigny of Durham, Maine, to study the project and decide how the roof should be chopped. Eric wanted the car to have a factory look, but with its lid lowered to capture the original lines and retain its classic proportions. To accomplish this, Tourigny chopped the lid 4 inches but, in order to retain the lines, stretched it 7 inches and widened it by 1-1/2 inches. The completed chop was downright perfect, bringing the car's soul to the surface and setting the tone for the rest of the build. Dave Faulkner of Faulkner Welding & Speed in Gorham, Maine, continued the vision by shaving and peaking the hood, frenching the headlights and taillights, and installing the custom smooth lenses. Faulkner then took care of any minor rust repair and shaved all of the factory trim, followed by Eric who completely disassembled the car.

With the car now in pieces, it was time for Eric and Faulkner to focus on creating a low-down spine for the beast to lie on. Since the original chassis was in rock solid condition, a decision was made to retain it and update it with fresh components. Out back, Faulkner started by C-notching the 'rails and followed by installing a pair of Chassis Engineering parallel leaf springs combined with RideTech AIRoverLeaf shocks all linked to a Currie 9-inch Ford rearend filled with cogs. Working toward the front of the chassis, Faulkner fabricated a transmission crossmember and installed the Chassis Engineering engine mounts before addressing the suspension. To make the car handle like it was on rails, a Chassis Engineering independent A-arm suspension was grafted in place supported by RideTech ShockWaves along with matching Chassis Engineering spindles. A RideTech AirPod compressor control system maintains ride height while a combination of rear disc brakes and Chassis Engineering discs up front add plenty of stopping power when needed.

The one thing that most impressed Eric about the Merc in the movie Cobra was it had plenty of gut-wrenching power to match its evil attitude. For the mill in his Chevy, there was no way any basic bent-eight would do. To add plenty of gusto to the mix, Eric contacted GM Performance Parts for one of their high-output 383ci stroked small-block V-8s. Filled with a steel crank, hydraulic roller cam, and 9.7:1 slugs, it comes topped with a set of Fast Burn aluminum heads and more than enough power to get the message across. Eric detailed it to the hilt and then topped it with an Edelbrock RPM Performer intake breathing through a Barry Grant 750-cfm Demon carb. Polished finned aluminum valve covers and a matching air cleaner from Mooneyes wrap it all up, while spark from MSD brings it to life. A GM 700-R4 trans massaged by Donny Spearin of Gorham ensures crisp shifts through a driveshaft by Williams Bros. Wheels and tires are always an important statement, and Eric hit a home run when he chose Wheel Vintiques chrome steelies shod with Coker BFG Silvertown wide whites accented with spider caps to nail the perfect traditional look. To get everything razor sharp before laying down the vibe, Eric called on Ed Pollard at Eddie's Kustom Auto Paint in Westbrook, Maine, to block the body to perfection and get every line as crisp as possible. With his spray gun filled with plenty of custom-blended Spies Hecker blue-black, Pollard applied a lustrous coating over the entire body, transforming the Chevy into the gangster tough car Eric had always envisioned. After reassembling and wiring the car along with longtime friend Lance Tompson, Eric sent the car off to Gagnon Interiors in Dayton, Maine, to have John Gagnon design a tasty interior oozing with nostalgia. Gagnon retained the original seating areas and brought them to life with a classic combination of black and white rolled synthetic leather, complemented with black-loop carpet. A skull-topped Gennie shifter and an original steering wheel help navigate the course, while stock and Auto Meter gauges monitor the vitals.

Studying the completed car, you can easily see Eric's vision of creating a custom with a defined attitude and stance infused with plenty of tire searing power was a success. We bet it looks downright cool cruising the streets at night as it weaves through neighborhoods laden with vintage mill buildings.